United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DENYING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT
(ECF No. 34) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS
before the Court is Plaintiff Jennifer Morris'
("Plaintiff) motion to file an amended complaint, filed
May 22, 2019, requesting leave to substitute D. Standiford,
A. Ball, and D. Silva-Escobar as Doe Defendants 31, 32, and
33, as well as Doe Defendants 51, 52, and 53. (ECF No. 34.)
Defendant John Sutton ("Defendant") filed an
opposition on June 4, 2019. (ECF No. 36.) Plaintiff did not
file any reply to Defendant's opposition. The Court found
Plaintiffs motion for leave to amend suitable for decision
without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and on
17, 2019, the Court issued an order vacating the scheduled
hearing. (ECF No. 37.) Having considered the moving and
opposition papers, the declarations and exhibits attached
thereto, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues
the following findings and recommendations recommending that
Plaintiffs motion for leave to file an amended complaint be
action involves the murder of Jason Morris
("Morris") while he was incarcerated and awaiting
formal classification by the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") at Wasco
State Prison. (Mot. Am. First Am. Compl. ("Mot.")
1, ECF No. 34.) Morris was a convicted sex offender placed in
the Sensitive Needs Yard, and Plaintiff alleges that Morris
specifically told CDCR officials that he needed a higher
level of protection because of fears for his safety due to
the nature of his offense. (Mot. 1-2.) On January 1, 2017,
Morris was moved from a dorm setting into a cell. (Mot. 2.)
Approximately ten days later, on February 1, 2017, an inmate
named Michael Beardsley ("Beardsley" or
"Inmate Beardsley") was placed in the cell with
Morris. (Id.) Six days later, on February 7, 2017,
Beardsley beat Morris and eventually strangled him to death.
Jennifer Morris filed this action on November 3, 2017. (ECF
No. 1.) On April 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed a first amended
complaint, the operative complaint in this matter. (First Am.
Compl. ("FAC"), ECF No. 15.) Plaintiffs FAC brings
causes of actions for: (1) violation of civil rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of California Civil Code
§ 52.1(b); (3) negligence; and (4) wrongful death. (FAC
filed an answer on April 19, 2018. (ECF No. 17.) On August
15, 2018, the Court issued a scheduling order setting among
others, the following deadlines: 1) motions to amend the
pleadings to be filed by January 14, 2019; 2) non-expert
discovery cutoff-off of March 29, 2019; 3) a dispositive
motion deadline of June 28, 2019; and 4) a trial date of
November 5, 2019. (ECF No. 23.) In the scheduling order, the
Court also set a status conference to be held on February 14,
2019. (ECF No. 23.) On January 23, 2019, the Court ordered
the parties to advise the Court of any issues that needed to
be addressed at the February 14, 2019 status conference or
advise the Court if the conference should be vacated or
continued. (ECF No. 24.) On February 1, 2019, the parties
submitted a joint response stating the parties had conferred
regarding the need to hold a status conference and agreed
that there were no issues that needed to be addressed by the
Court, and requested the February 14, 2019 status conference
be vacated. (ECF No. 25.) On February 4, 2019, the Court
vacated the February 14, 2019 status conference. (ECF No.
April 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to reopen discovery
and extend discovery deadlines in this matter. (ECF No. 28.)
On May 13, 2019, the undersigned issued an order denying
Plaintiffs motion to reopen discovery in this matter, and
such order is currently pending review before the District
Judge on Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration. (ECF Nos. 32,
33.) On May 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for
leave to file an amended complaint which is the subject of
this findings and recommendations. (ECF No. 34.)
district court has entered a pretrial scheduling order
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 setting a
deadline for amending pleadings, the district court is to
first apply Rule 16's standard for amending the
scheduling order if the deadline to amend has passed.
Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604,
607-08 (9th Cir. 1992); United States ex rel. Terry v.
Wasatch Advantage Grp., LLC, 327 F.R.D. 395, 403 (E.D.
Cal. 2018). If the party seeking amendment can satisfy the
good cause standard of Rule 16(b), the district court then
must determine whether the moving party has satisfied the
requirements of Rule 15(a). Wasatch Advantage Grp.,
LLC, 327 F.R.D. at 403-04.
The Rule 16(b) Good Cause Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that the district
court must issue a scheduling order that limits "the
time to join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete
discovery, and file motions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(1)-(3).
A scheduling order "may be modified only for good cause
and with the judge's consent." Fed.R.Civ.P.
16(b)(4). The "good cause" standard "primarily
considers the diligence of the party seeking the
amendment." Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations,
Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir.1992). To establish good
cause, the party seeking the modification of a scheduling
order must generally show that even with the exercise of due
diligence, they cannot meet the requirement of that order. Li
The prejudice to other parties, if any, may be considered,
but the focus is on the moving party's reason for seeking
the modification. Id. If the party seeking to amend
the scheduling order fails to show due diligence, the inquiry
should end and the court should not grant the motion to
modify. Zivkovic v. Southern California Edison. Co..
302 F.3d 1080, 1087 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Mammoth
Recreations. 975 F.2d at 609). "Relevant inquiries
[into diligence] include: whether the movant was diligent in
helping the court to create a workable Rule 16 order; whether
matters that were not, and could not have been, foreseeable
at the time of the scheduling conference caused the need for
amendment; and whether the movant was diligent in seeking
amendment once the need to amend became apparent."
Wasatch Advantage Grp., LLC. 327 F.R.D. at 404
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration
The Rule 15 Standard for Amending Pleadings
Plaintiff can meet the good cause standard to modify the
scheduling order under Rule 16, Plaintiff must then satisfy
the standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a).
Wasatch Advantage Grp., LLC, 327 F.R.D. at 403-04.
Twenty-one days after a responsive pleading or a motion to
dismiss is filed, a party may amend only by leave of the
court or by written consent of the adverse party.
Fed.R.Civ.P. l5(a)(1)-(2). "Rule 15(a) is very liberal
and leave to amend 'shall be freely given when justice so
requires.'" Amerisource Bergen Corp. v. Dialysis
West, Inc.. 465 F.3d 946, 951 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)). Leave to amend under Rule 15 is
"within the sound discretion of the trial court,"
and "[i]n exercising this discretion, a court must be
guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate
decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or
technicalities." United States v. Webb, 655
F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981).
courts "need not grant leave to amend where the
amendment: (1) prejudices the opposing party; (2) is sought
in bad faith; (3) produces an undue delay in the litigation;
or (4) is futile." Amerisource Bergen Corp.,
465 F.3d at 951 (citations omitted). Previous amendments may
also be considered. See Nunes v. Ashcroft, 375 F.3d
805, 808 (9th Cir. 2004) (listing "whether the plaintiff
has previously amended his complaint" as a fifth
factor); Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th
Cir. 1995) (same). The factors are not weighed equally.
"Futility of amendment can, by itself, justify the
denial of a motion for leave to amend." Bonin,
59 F.3d at 845. Undue delay, "by itself... is
insufficient to justify denying a motion to amend."
Owens v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 244
F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Bowles v. Reade. 198 F.3d 752, 757-58 (9th
Cir. 1999)). "[I]t is the consideration of prejudice to
the opposing party that carries the greatest weight."
Eminence Capital LLC v. Aspeon. Inc.. 316 F.3d 1048,
1052 (9th Cir. 2003). "Absent prejudice, or a strong
showing of any of the remaining [ ] factors, there exists
a. presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting
leave to amend." Id. Here, Defendant does not
consent to an amendment to the complaint. (ECF No. 36.)